Mar 23, 2015

Wisconsin Voter ID Law Challenge Gets No Hearing Before Supreme Court

Updated - Wisconsin case assists GOP efforts to block voters likely to oppose the GOP

Voter Photo ID is law of the land in Wisconsin - Implementation will begin AFTER the Spring General Election on April 7

Update II: "Our legal team did an outstanding job defending Wisconsin law, from the trial court to the U.S. Supreme Court. Absentee ballots are already in the hands of voters, therefore, the law cannot be implemented for the April 7 election. The Voter ID law will be in place for future elections – this decision is final."—Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel

Update: It is possible that the four 'liberal' justices on the Court torpedoed this challenge to Wisconsin's Voter ID out of concern the five rightwing activist justices on the Court are looking to further slice off section(s) of what remains of the the Voting Rights Act. This suggests that the five GOP justices are so off-the-charts hostile to the Voting Rights Act, (enacted to enforce the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, and for other purposes), that a radical policy of further disfranchisement is coming in the future, should the five GOP justices remain on the Court.
The U.S. Supreme Court decided this morning to reject a challenge by civil rights activists to Wisconsin's Photo Voter ID law.

The cases, Walker v. Frank (and a consolidated case), will not be reviewed by the Court, a refusal to hear a Photo Voter ID law on the merits in the first major challenge before the Court since Crawford v. Marion County Election Board (Indiana) (2008), a state-specific and content-specific opinion.

The Court will not rule whether Wisconsin's restrictive Photo Voter ID law abridges the right to vote without justification in violation of the U.S. Constitution's Equal Protection Clause and the Voting Rights Act, Section 2.

Republicans nationwide have used Voter ID laws and other laws to target the disabled, minorities, classes of the elderly and young voters who have trended heavily Democratic in their voting patterns.

As noted in SCOTUSBlog, at issue in the Frank case is "Whether a state’s voter ID law violates the Equal Protection Clause where, unlike in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, the evidentiary record establishes that the law substantially burdens the voting rights of hundreds of thousands of the state’s voters, and that the law does not advance a legitimate state interest; and (2) whether a state’s voter ID law violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act where the law disproportionately burdens and abridges the voting rights of African-American and Latino voters compared to White voters."

Wisconsin's Voter ID law was upheld by the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in a heavily criticized opinion by Judge Frank Easterbrook on October 6, 2014 issued after voting had already begun in the 2014 general Fall election. Judge Easterbrook's decision is now operative.

The Voter ID law was enjoined days later after an order by the U.S. Supreme Court (now terminated) issued on October 9, 2014, (Mal Contends) reinstating U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman's decision and order issuing a permanent injunction on April 29, 2014.

After the Supreme Court order, Wisconsin's Republican attorney general at the time, J.B. Van Hollen, issued a statement contradicting the Court order, saying Wisconsin will "have voter ID on election day" in another GOP effort to confuse and mislead voters. (Mal Contends and Hall, Wisconsin State Journal) Van Hollen later backed away from his statement.

Frank v. Walker also features the extraordinary development of the federal appellate court's Judge Richard Posner's call for a rehearing of the Frank decision on October 10, 2014, a suggestion that failed five-to-five.

What is significant in Posner's 43-page request is the meticulous language in which Posner "includes a devastating response to virtually every false and/or disingenuous rightwing argument/talking point ever put forth in support of Photo ID voting restrictions, describing them as 'a mere fig leaf for efforts to disenfranchise voters likely to vote for the political party that does not control the state government,'" as noted by the legal-political writer Brad Friedman and other legal scholars across the nation. (Mal Contends)

Posner is the author of the 2007 appellate court decision upholding Indiana's Voter ID law in Crawford.

Posner in 2013 states that "data" and "evidence" on the consequences of judicial opinions ought help to guide appellate decisions on the constitutionality of state Voter Id laws, and other judicial decisions. (Posner, The New Republic)

The author of the 2008 U.S. Supreme Court opinion on Crawford, Justice John Paul Stevens (1975-2010), has also issued a statement after he retired in which he takes issue with Voter ID laws as a means of obstructing voters (Bravin, Wall Street Journal and Josh Blackman) and with the Court's evisceration of the Voting Rights Act in 2013. (Cohen, The Atlantic)

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